Today, I choose to take the back roads through the Rocky Mountains from Saratoga, WY to Estes Park, CO.
I spent last night in a hotel called the Hacienda in Saratoga, WY. It’s located on a rural 2 lane state road, WY-130. Despite being 2 lanes, the speed limit is 70 mph until you get up into the Rocky Mountains. I guess that I didn’t really look at the map when I decided on this route. I didn’t realize that the road was going to turn into a steep winding mountain road going up to more than 10,000 ft!
I was regretted this choice as I was climbing my way up. Gradually the temperature was dropping. I started seeing patches of snow in the forest. Then larger areas of snow, closer to the road. I reached a snow gate that was open, so I ventured further. The road was clear and dry, it curved around and up until I was looking straight at Browns peak, still covered in a lot of snow. A small and packed rest area was seen on the left. I drove through the parking lot, but decided to continue on. I didn’t go much further. As I round the next curve, the landscaping opened up to fully display Browns peak with a lake in front of it and a walking trail around it. I found a rough turn out spot, carefully parked and went to take some pictures.
Continuing on up the road, I came a crossed Mirror Lake. I tried to turn into the parking lot on the left, but discovered that most of it was blocked by snow and what was open was full of cars and trucks. The views here looked spectacular, but there was no place for me. I feel that I may have missed some spectacular shots.
Further up the road were two large turn outs. I took advantage of both, to get some good pictures and discovered that I was on Snowy Range Pass in Wyoming at a mere 10847 feet.
Despite this height and it being 40 miles to the next town of any size, a cyclist rode by..
I personally was struggling to breath due to the high elevation and residual congestion from a recent virus. I admired his abilities as he rolled by.
Traveling further east, the road goes down into a beautiful green valley, with sprawling vast ranches.
Eventually I reached Laramie, WY, expecting to stop for a late lunch. Unfortunately, the options seemed very limited. There was a McDonalds, a Subway and a restaurant/Grill that also sold package liquor. I found my snacks in the car and proceeded on.
The roads straightened out and the drive was pleasant. I passed a sign welcoming me to “Colorful Colorado”.
Eventually, I turned onto US 34. Then everything changed. I was heading toward the Rocky Mountains again with the ultimate goal of going to the Rocky Mountain National Park. The road quickly became very curvy with the Fall River running beside it. It was beautiful, but traffic was heavy, well as heavy as traffic can be on a winding 2 lane road and my lack of food became apparent. As soon as I reached Estes Park, CO, I pulled into the first restaurant that I saw.
The restaurant advertised on it’s sign “Steaks, Seafood, Game, Pasta, Salads and Burgers” and was called “Hunters Chop House” (http://www.hunterschophouse.com/). It sounded spectacular. I ventured in and was seated in a nice booth in a corner by a window. There were three beef steaks on the menu, ranging in prices from $24.00 to $31.00. Also available were two Bison steaks and Elk Medallions. I quietly gasp at the price. However, since I haven’t really been eating out, I could justify it. I ordered the Beef Flat Iron Steak with Sidewinder Fries for $24.00. I didn’t realize how hungry I was and it was delicious! I planned on saving some for later, but it was too good. The steak was tender and juicy and the fries were amazing. Instead of being frozen string fries, they were thick, hand cut potato slices. So good!.
Leaving the restaurant, I progressed west on US-34 to the Inn on Fall River. I booked it last night on Hotels.com (www.hotels.com) and was glad that I did, because I passed a lot of No Vacancy signs. The Inn and it’s grounds are much smaller than I expected, but the Fall River does run through the middle of the property. I have a lovely upstairs room with a balcony overlooking the Fall River. Beyond the river are rental cabins.
As I was exploring my room, I saw a fan in the corner. That’s when I realized that the room does not have air conditioning. It was (is) 91 degrees today. Fortunately being in an upstairs room, I am comfortable leaving the back door open. There is a screen on the door. Unfortunately, the lovely Fall River has pretty strong rapids and is very noisy with the door open. It is so loud that I don’t want to turn the TV on, because I will have to turn it up really loud to hear it over the river. If I close the door, I will melt..
There is free Wi-Fi though….